“This is really, intellectually, quite incredible; that we turn to the consideration of beauty contests, in the context of Women’s Year!”
That was one of the early verbal salvos fired by Prime Minister Michael Manley, as he addressed the Jamaican Parliament, in response to concerns that the Government had decided to withdraw State funding for beauty contests, in 1975.
Far from it being “an affront to women in (International) Women’s Year,” he declared that “beauty is an entirely artificial concept.” Instead of focusing on such physical qualities, he said, the State needed to focus its energy on those qualities “that represent, not how a person looks, but represent more fundamentally, what are their qualities of application, what is their energy, what is their creativity, what is their capacity to handle situations?”
It was the aim of the National Festival Movement, sponsored by the State, he said, to unearth these positive qualities.
In reference again to International Women’s Year, he observed that, “throughout the entire world, all the women who are thinking about the problem of the role of women in society feel that, in the last analysis, beauty contests are not an expression of women’s freedom, but more a hangover from the time when women, to survive in the world, had to parade themselves to catch the eye of a man.”
While qualifying that he was not making that assertion, personally, he declared that “the values in society that led to things like beauty contests are this kind of value of the old days when a woman had to ‘show her wares’ to catch a husband, or something of that sort.”
In conclusion, he declared that it was “about time this country wake up and face reality, and learn that if we’re going to build a serious country, it is going to take serious people, who are concerned with serious activities!”